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ON CAMPUS: Indiana graduate helps Bates to title

by on May 23, 2014 10:39 AM

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Campus features area athletes playing college sports. This is the final edition of the installment for the school year.

Alison Simmons liked being on the water better than being in it.

As a youth, Simmons ran cross country and swam competitively, but when it came time to enter high school, Simmons didn’t see herself joining either of those teams.

Nothing against the cross country or swim teams at Indiana High School, but Simmons just didn’t have a passion for it.

“I was a swimmer and a runner in middle school and I didn’t really want to run or swim anymore,” she said.

So she gave rowing a chance.

“I did a learn-to-row camp the summer before my freshman year in high school and I really liked being on the water all the time, so I tried out for (Steel City RC, a club team in Pittsburgh) the fall season of my freshman year and I really liked it.”

So much so that Simmons based her decision on where to go to college around rowing. She found the right fit at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.

“I was looking at teams where I could contribute to the team but also be very challenged,” Simmons said. “And Bates is one of the best Division III schools in terms of academics, and they have success in rowing as well.”

Simmons and the Bobcats are having a great deal of success this spring.

After winning its first conference title two weekends ago, Bates is the top-ranked team in Division III entering the NCAA Championships at Eagle Creek Park in Indianapolis on May 30-31.

Bates won its first New England Small College Athletic Conference title and took first in all its races at the ECAC National Invitational Rowing Championships on May 11. The Bobcats went 35-0 on the day. The ECAC championships double as the NESCAC championships.

By winning the team conference title for the first time since it was instituted in 2002, Bates earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, the Bobcats’ eighth straight trip to nationals.

Considering the late start the Bobcats got due to the brutal winter that battered the East Coast, their banner season is all the more impressive.

“We didn’t get on the water until April, and last year we were on the water a month before,” Simmons said. “We were doing indoor training most of the season so the boat lineups weren’t set and they haven’t been set yet. We’re still changing people in and out of boats, so as far as that, it’s been a really challenging season.”

A sophomore, Simmons was a regular on Bates’ second varsity eight for much of her freshman and sophomore seasons, and she got her first chance in the first varsity eight boat at the NESCAC/ECAC Championships.

With Simmons joining the first varsity eight boat, the Bobcats won the grand final in 6 minutes, 51.316 seconds.

“I guess it means a lot especially being the No. 1-ranked team in the nation right now. So I guess it means I’m one of the top eight rowers in the country,” Simmons said sheepishly with a laugh.

During her freshman season, Simmons rowed in the second varsity eight boat at the NCAA Division III Championships. Her boat won bronze and the Bobcats finished second in the team standings for the fifth straight season.

 

ANGEL PICCIRILLO (Villanova, track and field): Piccirillo learned she qualified for the NCAA East Regional meet, the final step before the NCAA Championships, for the second straight season on Thursday.

After taking second at the conference meet and 12th at the ECAC Championships in the 1,500-meter run, Piccirillo earned the right to advance to the regional meet.

Piccirillo posted a second-place finish in the 1,500-meter run and she ran on Villanova’s first-place 3,200 relay team at the Big East Outdoor Championships two weeks ago to help the Wildcats capture the team title at the conference meet for the first time since 2000.

Piccirillo posted a career-best time of 4:17.63 to take second in the 1,500 at the Big East outdoor meet, finishing less than a second behind winner Kirsty Legg from Butler (4:16.72).

A Homer-Center graduate, Piccirillo won her first individual conference title this season, winning the mile in 5:01.87 at the Big East Indoor Championships on Feb. 22.

She also ran on two conference title-winning relay teams this season. At the Big East Indoor Championships, she ran a leg on the Wildcats’ first-place 4x750 relay, and at the outdoor championships on May 10, she ran on the winning 3,200 relay team.

Villanova also won the conference title at the Big East Indoor Championships.

The highlight of Piccirillo’s outdoor season was running on Villanova’s winning 3,200 and 4x1,500 relay teams at the Penn Relays on April 25 and 26.

 

ANDREW BARNHART (Case Western, track and field): Primarily a jumper who makes an occasional appearance in sprinting events, Barnhart had his senior season cut short by injury.

He competed in six meets during the indoor season, and he competed in the Marv Frye Invitational on April 5 in his only outdoor meet of the season. But he sustained a deep heel bruise that never recovered and lost the majority of his outdoor season.

The highlight of his season was a jump of 41-6? in the triple jump on Feb. 1 in a dual meet against Carnegie Mellon. He also won the Baldwin-Wallace Mid-January Meet with a jump of 40-8? on Jan. 24.

Barnhart qualified for the University Athletic Association indoor championships in the triple jump on March 1 but scratched on all three jumps and didn’t advance to the finals.

Last season, as a junior, Barnhart took sixth at the UAA indoor championships and third in the outdoor championships in the triple jump. At the outdoor conference meet last season, he jumped a career-best 43-6? to take third.

Barnhart also competed in the long jump and posted a pair of top-10 finishes this season. His season-best jump was 19-2. He achieved his career-best jump of 21-11? as a sophomore in 2012.

Barnhart also occasionally competed in the 55- and 60-meter dashes, indoor-only events. This season, he ran the 55 once. As a freshman, he was part of the Spartans’ 400 relay team, which took second place at the UAA outdoor championships in 2011.

 

BRANDON CAMPBELL (Mount Union, track and field): The top javelin thrower for the Division III Purple Raiders, Campbell recently completed a solid junior season. He placed in the top six in all seven meets he competed in this season, including a pair of second-place finishes.

A Ligonier Valley graduate, Campbell threw 175 feet, 11 inches, at the Ohio Athletic Conference Championships on April 25 to finish second in the conference for the second straight season. That was just his third-best throw of the season, though.

At the Purple Raiders’ home invitational, the John Homon Open on April 5, he had his season-best throw of 183-3 to take second place. He had won that meet the previous two seasons. And at Baldwin-Wallace’s Sparky Adams Invitational, he threw 177-3 on April 18.

Campbell’s career-best throw came last season, when he threw 193-5 as a sophomore to take second place at the OAC Championships.

 

DARRYL JONES (Robert Morris, track and field): A middle-distance specialist when he first arrived to Robert Morris, Jones mostly competed in long-distance events for the Colonials this season.

Injuries prevented him from competing during the outdoor season, but he ran five races at four indoor meets.

He competed in the 3,000 twice and posted top-10 finishes both times, as he ran the 5,000, 1,000 and the mile once each.

He posted a time of personal-best time of 9:20.83 in the 3,000 this season, and he placed ninth in his first career 5,000 (17:20.14).

In his first two collegiate seasons, Jones primarily ran the 800, 1,000, 1,500 and mile. He ran the 3,000 once prior to this season. He qualified for the Northeast Conference outdoor championships in the 800 as a freshman in 2012 and in the 1,500 as a sophomore last season.

A graduate of Blairsville, Jones is no stranger to long distance running, though. A cross country standout in high school, Jones also runs cross country for Robert Morris.

 

HANNAH HARLEY (Point Park, softball): A sophomore pitcher, Harley appeared in 17 games this season with 11 starts, and she went 8-3 with a 3.55 earned-run average. She threw three complete games and ranked second on the team with 75 innings and 57 strikeouts. She held opponents to a .256 batting average.

After starting the season 0-2 and giving up 16 earned runs in the first 14 2-3 innings of the season, Harley won seven of her final nine starts of the year while giving up just 22 earned runs over her final 60 1-3 innings of the season. She won seven straight starts between March 27 and April 19.

Point Park went 26-15 during the regular season and finished second in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, but the Pioneers didn’t win a game at the conference tournament and finished the year 26-17.

Harley was one of five pitchers named to the All-KIAC team after the conference tournament.



Mirza Zukic is a sports writer that primarily covers the Pittsburgh Steelers and is the Gazette's track and field beat writer.
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